And speaking of videos …

Sorry, no sex acts or nudity in these vids. You can find those elsewhere. Check out Anousheh Ansari as she demonstrates some zero-g effects while chatting with her husband, Hamid, from the International Space Station. Ansari is by no means the first to perform somersaults in orbit or show how to spin an apple in zero-g, but of all the private citizens to have gone into space, she has done more in two weeks to humanize space exploration than all the world’s space agencies have done in 50 years. Read her blog posts. They are eloquent, heartfelt and at times darn poetic. Pretty good for an engineer! Also, check her flightsuit, which features both the US and the Iranian flags. Rumors were flying before her launch that NASA had nixed her displaying the Iranian flag on her suit. If they were true, then Ansari effectively told NASA to go stick it. After all, it’s not like NASA could send her home.

Paducah area science teacher still sacked after appearing nude, and then some 1

It’s old news, since Tericka Dye lost her job last spring, but it’s a fitting counterpoint to Sydney McGee’s situation. Dye is a popular, award-winning science teacher and volleyball coach at Reidland High School in McCracken County. When word got out that she had performed in adult films as Rikki Andersin 11 years ago, Dye got the old heave-ho. Despite legal and administrative efforts to regain her job, Dye remains unemployed as a teacher. As Dye and her lawyer tell it, she was a broke 23-year-old with children to feed. She discovered, as many women have, that any halfway attractive female can make some big bucks quickly if she is willing to strip, move suggestively, and/or perform sex acts on camera. In Dye’s case, she worked as a stripper and was enticed to go to Los Angeles to film oral and anal sex scenes, which appeared in several XXX movies. Unlike some adult film actresses, Dye did not stay in the business, despite a tidy $3,000 paycheck. She joined the army, went to college, got a degree and ended up as a science teacher in western Kentucky, land of God-fearing, forgiving Christian folk. Despite shows of support from parents, students ...

Dallas art teacher sacked after students see nude boy, woman 5

In yet another example of bluenoses running amuck in the heartland, a Dallas art teacher has lost her job after taking her fifth graders to the Dallas Museum of Art. One of the pieces of art the kids saw was this funerary figure of an athlete cut down in the prime of his youth, ca. 330 BCE. You will note that, with the exception of his missing head and left arm, the boy is anatomically correct. The children saw other nudes at the museum, as well. Apparently, one of the children complained to a parent, who complained to Sydney McGee’s boss, who suspended her pending administrative review. One doubts the parent or administrator took the time to actually view the piece in question, which has not been named. McGee, 51, is an award-winning, popular teacher at her school, The Wilma Fisher Elementary School north of Dallas. While she has apparently had some minor run-ins with her principal, McGee seems to be a responsible, dedicated teacher who wants to expose (no pun intended!) her students to our rich cultural heritage. It’s a heritage that includes accurate depictions of the nude human figure, which Greek sculptors celebrated in countless examples, and which ...

The end is near! Watch for receding coastlines, icicles in hell!

Yes, dear readers, ’tis true. I have joined the MySpace generation, after months of excoriating it as a graphic trainwreck and web navigation disaster. I have a modest, graphically simple (thank you) MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/wheatdogg. Why? Because, like nature, I abhor a vacuum. Some months ago, while writing about Brittany McComb, the Nevada valedictorian whose overly Christian message alarmed school officials, I tried to contact her. McComb’s only presence on the internet was her MySpace page, and you cannot contact a MySpacer without having a MySpace account yourself. She never replied to my questions, but there I was, stuck with a MySpace page with nothing on it. Rather than request the sitemasters to delete it, I decided to use it as a way to direct people to this, my real blog. In short order, I joined a couple of groups, including that of the high school where I teach. Before long, students got wind of it. Most were amazed, or at least amused, but I overheard one say to a friend that I was still using the default MySpace layout. Youch! My wounded web developer pride forced me to explore more tasteful (read, less busy and confusing) MySpace layouts. ...

I’m just plain jealous …

Check this photo from Anousheh Ansari at flickr.com. It’s the view from her bedroom window. A more direct link to her blog from space is http://spaceblog.xprize.org/by-anousheh/

Ansari describes her trip up to the ISS

Anousheh Ansari pulls no punches when she describes her trip to the International Space Station in her latest blog entry. She hurled twice, and had to resort to injections to quell her motion sickness. Now the space agencies tend to de-emphasize the unpleasant aspects of spaceflight, especially if their professional astronauts/cosmonauts toss their cookies up there — which they have. So, Ansari’s honesty is refreshing. Supposedly, spacesickness temporarily incapacitates only a few space travelers, although everyone should feel a little funny in “zero-g.” Ansari experienced all three symptoms. Vertigo and nausea. The semicircular canals in our skulls contain a fluid which helps us maintain our balance. Sloshing that fluid around — in amusement park rides, during tumbling exercises, on boats in rough waters — makes some people dizzy and ill. In orbit, you also lose your sense of down, since there is nothing pulling your body in one direction, while your eyes are telling you where the floor and ceiling are. The visual input and semicircular-canal inputs duke it out in your brain to see which ones win. Meanwhile, you feel green around the gills. Ansari compounded that problem by eagerly leaping out of bed and turning a few somersaults. ...

Smiling spokesperson for space tourism boards ISS

With all the worry about the Space Shuttle’s return to Earth, the media here in the States have given short shrift to the journey of Anousheh Ansari, one of the Russian space agency’s paying customers. Ansari’s beaming smile should convince anyone that visiting space has gotta be fun. News reports have played it down, but it seems Ansari, 40, had a little spacesickness on the way up to the International Space Station. But in the videos of her arrival at the ISS today, the grin you see at right is still there. She is one happy customer! Ansari, who made a boatload of money in the telecommunications business here in the States, was born in Iran and now lives in Texas. She’s the first Muslim woman to go to space, and has become a hero to thousands of Iranians and Muslims worldwide. I spent some time reading up on her motivations, and have to admire her for her spunk. A fan of Star Trek, Ansari has channeled some of her fortune into the X-Prize, a competition for privately funded space ventures. She has reportedly spent another chunk, some $20 million, to buy a one-week cruise to the ISS. All paying ...

A new blog carnival debuts

Entitled Philosophia Naturalis, this new carnival will focus on physical science and technology. Biologists will have to stick to The Tangled Bank, I guess. Anyway, the first edition of Philosophia Naturalis is here at Science and Reason. I didn’t submit anything to it or Tangled Bank, for that matter, since school has been keeping me so busy. Soon, though, soon. Happy reading! And Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day, too, ye landlubbers, arrr!

I met The Champ today … 1

but I wish I had done it earlier, when Muhammad was able to talk better. So here is how the fateful meeting came about. One of our school’s alums is a veep at the Muhammad Ali Center, right here in Louisville, Kentucky, and he gave our head the news that The Champ was going to be at the Center for photo shoots around noon. Olivia, our fitness teacher and field hockey coach, told her 9th graders she would escort them there, telling them they had to ask permission of their teachers to miss class. One of my 9th grade physics classes meets just before lunch on Fridays, so a couple of the kids asked me ahead of time if they could go. Several more asked just as class started, and, shoot, I wanted to go, too. So we all signed out to take the downtown trolley (actually, it’s a bus dressed up like a trolley) to the Ali Center. Except I didn’t quite get out the door with the rest of the group. Besides being the physics teacher, I’m also the technology coordinator, and one of our teachers was having a serious problem with a computer that I had to ...

Parental sidebar: Ma fille en France

Well, if PZ Myers can brag about his daughter, so can I. We put her on the plane on the 6th for a semester abroad in Strasbourg. Despite jet lag and lack of both time and internet connection, she has managed to compose fairly lengthy daily journals, which are available for your edification at darcyenfrance.livejournal.com. Darcy is staying with a great family there, who have two daughters roughly in her age bracket (20ish), and being kept very busy by the Centre College faculty. Might I add that I am also green with envy, as well as proud. I wish I had done something that cool when I was 20ish.

Pluto, god of underworld, gets busted down to demigod 5

It’s old news now, but I haven’t had a chance to comment on this monumental change in our solar system’s family tree. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) this month demoted Pluto from planet to dwarf planet, supposedly removing it from the pantheon of bodies called planets. I told my students I’m thinking of holding a wake in Pluto’s honor. Of course, it would just be an excuse to have a party. I’m not really all that upset. Science, after all, is all about change. And what a tiny change, at that. Here are the facts. Way back in the early part of the 20th century, Percival Lowell, who had some pretty odd ideas about the solar system and a lot of other things, insisted on the basis of those odd ideas that there had to be a ninth planet outside the orbit of Neptune, the so-called Planet X which fringers still talk about. After Lowell died, Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, using a blink comparator, discovered a tiny speck on his photographic plates that was eventually identified as a new planet. (Tombaugh discovered 14 other tiny specks this way, all of them asteroids.) It was quite an achievement, given the tiny ...

I’m still here, just real busy 6

School started the 16th, and I hit the ground running. Once the dust settles, I have a few posts to put up. Please come again.
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